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Gerry Adams: Sinn Fein focused on securing full Stormont executive

Published 20/05/2016

Gerry Adams has rejected calls to stand aside as leader of Sinn Fein in the Republic
Gerry Adams has rejected calls to stand aside as leader of Sinn Fein in the Republic

Sinn Fein is fully focused on securing the election of a full Stormont executive by next week, the party president has insisted.

However Gerry Adams has remained tight-lipped over republicans' preferred option for a justice minister.

Speaking outside the Sinn Fein headquarters in West Belfast, Mr Adams said: " Our focus at the moment is to get a full executive including the justice minister elected on Wednesday. That's our focus. That's what Martin (McGuinness) is mandated by us to do.

"He is resolute about that, he is patient about that and he is confident he will succeed."

The future of the Stormont Assembly hinges on the establishment of a full executive.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has set a deadline of Wednesday and warned she could trigger fresh elections if one is not formed.

Both the DUP and Sinn Fein have previously vetoed the other taking the politically sensitive justice portfolio, instead relying on the cross-community Alliance Party to fill the post.

However Alliance leader David Ford told his ruling body on Thursday he could not recommend retaking justice without significant reform on a number of key issues - including the controversial petition of concern which allows 30 or more MLAs to block legislation.

Given DUP leader Arlene Foster has previously stated she would not support a Sinn Fein justice minister, a DUP incumbent may be the plan B option.

However Mr Adams has declined to be drawn on the prospect.

"We have to have a full executive elected on Wednesday," he said. "If we don't we are into another election. So, we are looking at a series of options to make sure that the full executive is elected.

"But I am not going to discuss that on the airwaves at this time."

The First and Deputy First Ministers have opened talks with Green Party MLA Steve Agnew and independent unionist Claire Sugden about the potential of one of them taking on justice, and they have made clear that, whatever happens, a minister will be appointed.

While Mr Agnew has indicated a reluctance without reform, Ms Sugden has said she does not have a wish list and would consider any offer that was made.

As yet, nothing has been put on the table, she said.

She told the BBC: "If an offer is made I will consider it. I have no wish list. I will do what I think is the right thing for my constituents."

Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionists will be joined on the opposition benches by the SDLP who confirmed on Thursday they would not stay in government.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood batted away criticism from political opponents, saying the party had made a "bold decision".

The 1998 peace deal established a form of government based on a ruling coalition executive made up of all Northern Ireland's main parties. The aim was to ensure all sections of a deeply divided society had a role in power.

While smaller parties and independents have sat outside the executive in past mandates, they have not been afforded the recognition, funding and status of an official opposition.

A new law passed earlier this year now enables parties with the electoral strength to enter the executive to instead form an opposition.

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